Environment and Government and Economic Development

CHRIS KATTERJOHN Commentary: Keep lights on at the Statehouse

April 4, 2005

CHRIS KATTERJOHN

Commentary Keep lights on at the Statehouse

Every morning I wake up happy that my job doesn't require getting things through the Indiana General Assembly. I don't have that kind of patience, and I'm not cut out to deal with that much frustration.

I understand that big issues take time to be resolved and that compromise rarely happens overnight, but for a few issues that everyone seemed to agree were critical from the outset, the time it's taking to move them forward seems inordinately long.

People keep saying that the convention center expansion and the new Colts stadium will get done, yet the debate on how to finance the projects continues to drag on, with a number of funding plans proffered and just as many shot down.

I guess that's just part of the process. After all, $900 million is a lot of money.

The good news is that the importance of keeping the stadium and the expansion linked and getting both pieces financed was re-emphasized last week. Doing one without the other would be impractical and stupid, akin to putting on one leg of a pair of pants and trying to play football.

The other positive came when Gov. Mitch Daniels emphasized the importance of the projects and stepped forward with an offer to broker the deal. He and the business folks with whom he's surrounded himself could help craft something creative given the opportunity.

My only suggestion: Stay away from the 1-percent sales tax on services for anyone, let alone the businesses in Marion County. It's a bad idea whose time should never come.

On the other hand, a really good idea whose time I thought had arrived was Mayor Bart Peterson's Indianapolis Works proposal, which spelled out a plan to consolidate city and county services, saving millions of dollars and making local government more efficient.

What I thought was a no-brainer, however, has been hung up in a morass of smoke and mirrors since the beginning of the session. What's ironic is that an essentially Republican idea born of Republican Richard Lugar's mayoralty has been derailed by Republicans.

Hmmmmm, could this be political?

Granted, Mayor Peterson probably could've and should've done a better job documenting the proposed savings under the plan, but that's really a detail that needs to be worked out by his administration and the City-County Council, not the General Assembly.

This is a classic case of micromanagement. All the Legislature should be concerned with is whether the idea makes sense in principle. And who can argue that it doesn't?

Then, of course, there's good old daylight-saving time, the simplest yet most contentious of the issues at hand. Going into this session, many observers believed this was the year DST's time had finally arrived. Then, after an initial debate, the subject dropped off the radar screen, seemingly dead as a doornail.

Surprisingly in the middle of last week, daylight-saving time was said to be alive and well and on its way to probable passage. This development is evidence of just

how much wheeling and dealing goes on behind the scenes.

These are interesting times. I suppose one could assume that with a new governor, new Legislature and a new party firmly in control, progress would be delayed somewhat so that all the new players could find their legs in the new environment.

But, these are also critical times. In the area of economic development, Indiana's future rests on the Legislature's ability to enact progressive measures that Gov. Daniels put forth in his campaign. Our city's future would be enhanced if Bart Peterson's Indianapolis Works finds its way to reality.

In addition to the these issues, the General Assembly has other major business to tend to, not the least of which are the state's next budget and its public school funding formula.

April 29 is still four weeks away. But if our legislators don't get their important work done by then, I urge the governor to leave the lights on at the Statehouse until they do. Special sessions can be quite productive. Indiana's future is at stake.



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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